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Swara Bhasker being accused of inciting violence in Delhi is yet another example of how easily women are targeted for having a voice. Why are women such soft targets?
The hashtag #ArrestSwaraBhasker has been trending on Twitter ever since one of her speeches at a recent anti-CAA protest surfaced. That video has since gone viral. Several people on Twitter have been accusing her of inciting violence by the mobs against police and the Hindus.
Many even went on to the extent of blaming her solely for the recent communal violence in Delhi and are demanding her arrest for the same. The communal violence in Delhi began on February 24th.
In the speech Swara talks about the police brutality on the protestors at various sites in Delhi. “So it has arrived – the unspeakable fear exists. We are living it now. We are at that moment when the uniformed personnel who take oaths by placing their hands on our Constitution attack unarmed Muslims, destroy their properties, abuse them, barge into their homes only because (I don’t know) eat non-veg? I don’t even know what the reason is,” she says.
Swara is a JNU alumnus and has been vocal at various civic movements in the past as well. She visited Shaheen Bagh and other protest sites.
“I think the fight is at home. It is also that threat and that enemy is that thinking we get every morning on our family WhatsApp groups. That we feel too polite to respond to because we are well-bred people. We are good children, our parents taught us manners. So we don’t reply to that uncle or that aunt or that grandmother-grandfather, whoever it is. Because you know, we are polite. And you know we don’t want to fight. But you know what, I think it is time to actually start answering those messages on those WhatsApp groups,” she says in the video.
This isn’t the first time numerous Twitter users spoke against Swara. Earlier she was subjected to character assassination and threats of sexual violence for she is a female celebrity speaking her mind about a cause.
Amnesty International recently conducted a study titled ‘Troll Patrol India: Exposing Online Abuse Faced By Women Politicians in India.’ It says, “Women who express their opinions online are targeted with abuse not just for their opinion, but also for the various immutable identities – such as gender, religion, caste, marital status and many more.”
The study concluded that there are more than 10,000 problematic or abusive tweets every day for all the women studied in this research.
The Internet, and in particularly social media is touted as a safe and democratic space for free expression. Quite often it is what turns out to be most sexist and misogynist to its core. Women’s opinions are not just condemned or trolled, the abuses hurled at them are largely gendered and threats are mainly that of sexual violence.
Swara has been called a whore, bitch, and paid activist. In an attempt to defame, demean, intimidate and silence women even their families are threatened and abused.
The findings of Troll Patrol India indicate that if a woman with a public life voices her opinion about any issue she is subjected to targeted abuse. And that has led several women to even leave these platforms permanently. The ones who do choose to stay, remain quiet or limit their online existence to a minimal- trying not to stir up any kind of trouble.
Platforms like Twitter have been crucial in huge movements recently like the #MeToo movement. Thus, such attempts to intimidate women from expressing their opinions freely must be condemned. One can disagree about a particular opinion or POV but that disagreement must be expressed using your freedom of expression responsibly.
Abuse and hashtags like this one against Swara are actually human rights abuse and not just a women’s issue and hence must be treated as such.
Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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